John Lasseter Hired to Lead Skydance Animation

Skydance Animation announced the hire of Pixar co-founder John Lasseter as their head of animation. Read more.
John Lasseter Skydance Animation

Pixar co-founder John Lasseter’s tenure at Pixar Animation Studios came to a temporary halt in November of 2017 amid allegations and admission of “missteps” towards his subordinates at the studio. The Walt Disney Company later determined that John would cease to work in his temporary role as of December 31, 2018, and would no longer have ties to Disney Animation or Pixar.

Today, it was announced by Skydance CEO, David Ellison via a memo (read below), that John Lasseter has been hired to run Skydance Animation.

Formed in 2017, Skydance Animation has an exclusive production and distribution deal with Paramount Pictures until 2021 — which is the same year the studio’s first film Luck is set to release (March 19, 2021). A somewhat similar setup to how Pixar originally had a distribution deal with Disney when Pixar started creating films.

Regarding the news, John Lasseter noted, “I’m grateful to David and the Skydance team and know that I have been entrusted with an enormous responsibility, it is a distinct privilege that I will relish.

I have spent the last year away from the industry in deep reflection, learning how my actions unintentionally made colleagues uncomfortable, which I deeply regret and apologize for. It has been humbling, but I believe it will make me a better leader.

I want nothing more than the opportunity to return to my creative and entrepreneurial roots, to build and invent again. I join Skydance with the same enthusiasm that drove me to help build Pixar, with a firm desire to tell original and diverse stories for audiences everywhere. With what I have learned and how I have grown in the past year, I am resolute in my commitment to build an animation studio upon a foundation of quality, safety, trust and mutual respect.”

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SKYDANCE ANIMATION INTERNAL ANNOUNCEMENT

David Ellison’s full memo to the studio on John Lasseter’s hire below (from The Hollywood Reporter):

Dear Colleagues:

I wanted to share with you first some news that we are announcing today.

Industry visionary John Lasseter is joining us to lead Skydance Animation. John will be based in Los Angeles and will report directly to me.

Bill Damaschke will be transitioning from his current role, and we are hopeful he will choose to remain within the Skydance family.

The attached press release outlines the news more fully, but I wanted to share a few things that have informed our decision to bring John on board.

First, no one can dispute John’s legacy building Pixar and Walt Disney Animation into the leadership position they now enjoy. His creative vision and forward-looking approach to animation has transformed the entire industry. At his heart, John is a storyteller – with a unique ability to tell beautiful and emotionally-driven tales that resonate and inspire audiences around the globe.

Second, I know many of you are aware of John’s admitted mistakes in his prior role helming those studios. John has been forthright in taking ownership of his behavior, apologized for his actions and has spent the past year on sabbatical analyzing and improving his workplace behavior.

Third, we employed outside counsel to thoroughly investigate the allegations, which we considered serious and have warranted our full attention as we made this important decision. The senior leadership team and I have all carefully evaluated the findings of this extensive investigation.

Let me be clear: we have not entered into this decision lightly.

While we would never minimize anyone’s subjective views on behavior, we are confident after many substantive conversations with John, and as the investigation has affirmed, that his mistakes have been recognized. We are certain that John has learned valuable lessons and is ready to prove his capabilities as a leader and a colleague. And he has given his assurance that he will comport himself in a wholly professional manner that is the expectation of every Skydance colleague and partner.

We are very hopeful and excited about what the coming years will bring, as John’s art transcends generations and cultures, while deeply resonating on a fundamental level with what makes us uniquely human.

The senior leadership team and I will be hosting a town hall for all Skydance Animation colleagues shortly to speak with you directly about this transition. Additional town halls at SDM and SDI will take place today and tomorrow.

Skydance Animation colleagues, please be on the lookout for a call-to-gather email. I look forward to speaking with you in person.

Thanks,

David

ORIGINS OF THE HIRE?

We don’t know exactly when discussions between Skydance and John began, but Lasseter was pictured with Jeremy Zag on October 3, 2018, on Instagram. Jeremy started working with Skydance in September of 2018 as Skydance purchased the rights to create a live-action version of the popular, Miraculous – Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir animated series. It’s possible that John was on a roadshow with Skydance while they demonstrated their upcoming projects and capabilities to grow the company into a much larger media and animation company.

THOUGHTS

As David noted, welcoming John to the studio is not a decision they took lightly, but time will tell if the industry will fully welcome John back into the fold. The Hollywood Reporter also obtained statements from Time’s Up and Women and Hollywood regarding the news and had some scathing remarks. What are your thoughts on the news? Leave a comment below or chat about it in the Pixar Post Forum.

ABOUT SKYDANCE MEDIA

Skydance is a diversified media company founded by David Ellison in 2010 to create high-quality, event-level entertainment for global audiences. The Company brings to life stories with immersive worlds across its feature film, television, interactive and animation divisions. Recent feature films include Mission: Impossible–Fallout and Annihilation. Skydance’s upcoming feature films include 6 Underground, Gemini Man, the Untitled Terminator project and Top Gun: Maverick. Skydance Television launched in 2013, and its current slate includes two Emmy-nominated series, Grace and Frankie and Altered Carbon, Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, Condor and Foundation. Skydance Interactive launched in 2016 to create and publish original and IP-based virtual reality video games; their library includes the mech-shooter game Archangel: Hellfire and the upcoming 2019 title The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners. In 2017, Skydance formed an animation division to develop and produce a slate of high-end feature films and television series in partnership with Spain’s Ilion Animation Studios.

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